Sunday, 20 July 2014

The World at War

On the 28th of July 1914 the world witnessed the start of the First World War.
The horror of this conflict remains with us to this day.  A conservative estimate counts the loss of life to have been over 16 million, with a further 20 million wounded.

The civilian dead made up approximately 7 million of this total although this disregards those who were conscripted, and those who volunteered under false pretences.  These numbers mean little until we consider that every one of them was a human life, with family, friends and loved ones.  These were people who were sent into a nightmare and never returned home.
This was a war which hit Scotland hard.  Scots suffered more than 25% of total British casualties, a number far greater than our share of the population.  Indeed the tremendous cost we paid inspired the American Government in 1927 to gift a memorial specifically to recognise the tremendous sacrifice of Scottish Regiments.  You can still see ‘The Call’ in the west end of Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.  It has a simple inscription which states:
“If it be life that waits, I shall live forever unconquered.  If death, I shall die at last, strong in my pride and free.”

It’s a shame that the Government in Westminster didn't hold the same value to our regiments.
Prime Minister David Cameron wants to mark the hundredth anniversary of Britain’s formal entry into the war with “a commemoration that, like the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year (2012), says something about who are as a people.”  I don’t want to commemorate the beginning of the Great War ‘like the Diamond Jubilee celebrations’.
David Cameron wants to mark the anniversaries of certain battles, such as the Somme and Gallipoli, and his intention is to spend part of his £50 million ‘commemoration’ budget in educational programmes for school pupils in England to learn about the “sheer scale of sacrifice.”  I don’t see much focus on the reasons for this violent and senseless conflict, or thoughts on what could have been achieved if this war had never taken place.  The estimated financial cost of $186,333,637,000 alone could have achieved so much.

Last November we ran our serialisation of General Smedley Butler's brilliant book 'War is a Racket'. It examined how war generates obscene profits for a handful of people and offered ways to prevent most conflicts from starting or escalating. The themes explored in 'War is a Racket' and other titles should form the basis of any study of the First World War, and the 136 other conflicts Scotland has been involved in under Westminster rule, yet they are ignored in favour of war advocates.
It is the end of a war that should be remembered and I hope that amongst the pomp and ceremony that is certain to dominate these commemorations that we’ll remember those who lost their lives in this needless and senseless conflict and aspire to keep our youth from experiencing such horrors.  I hope none of us sees another ‘Great War’, but that will be difficult when our leaders don’t understand the first.
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1 comment:

  1. Interesting article and book, just read all the excerpts, now going to find the book on line. Thanks